China is in the midst of a skyscraper boom.
At 492 metres, the Shanghai World Financial Center is the third tallest building in the world.
China is in the midst of constructing another 200 buildings – all above 150 metres – over the next three years. That means one will be completed every five days, for three years, according to Chinese website “Montiancity”.
Skyscrapers are seen as status symbols for local officials – an indicator of modernization and political success. But analysts said it could be an over-investment, not matched by actual demand.
Singto Ng, Chief Editor of Motiancity, said: “Many people have a theory that the reason for the craze over skyscrapers, particularly in second and third tier cities, is because the local governments want to create GDP growth.
Glass curtain walls are popular in the design of these tall buildings. They are lighter and cheaper than concrete tiles, and about 4,000 to 5,000 buildings in Shanghai have this feature.
However, about 900 buildings, those that were constructed more than 15 years ago, pose the highest risk of danger.
In the last two months, there were at least five cases of glass curtain walls either cracking or shattering. In one incident, glass from the 46th floor fell off, causing damage to about 50 cars on the street.
Experts said glass curtain walls need to be checked, maintained or replaced regularly. But that is not cheap.
The Shanghai government has guidelines requiring glass curtain walls over eight years old to be inspected every year. But since it is not compulsory, it is seldom done.
Apart from Shanghai, other Chinese cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen also have thousands of buildings with glass curtain walls. In the province of Zhejiang’s Hangzhou, a 19-year-old woman faces amputation after her left leg was almost cut off from beneath her knee, severed by a shard of falling glass from a commercial building. She has since received compensation from the commercial building’s property management company.